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# THE FRANCK-HERTZ EXPERIMENT INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND Bound systems, such as atoms and molecules, possess stationary

states, That is, the total energy of the atom or molecule is quantized, with one possible value of the total energy corresponding to each of the allowed states. When the atom or molecule is in a stationary state, its total energy is constant. In a stationary state, the atom neither absorbs nor radiates energy. The energies corresponding to the stationary states are called the energy levels of the system. An atom or molecule can undergo a transition from one stationary state to another of higher energy only by absorbing exactly the correct amount of energy from an external source; similarly, if a transition occurs from one state to another of lower energy, the energy difference must be emitted to the surrounding. The first experimental evidence for this was obtained in an experiment by Franck and Hertz in 1914, for which they received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1926. The following discussion is taken from the book Fundamental University Physics by Alonso and Finn: Experimental Evidence of Stationary States So far we have introduced the idea of stationary states as a convenient concept to explain the discrete spectrum of atomic systems. However, the existence of transitions between stationary states is amply corroborated by many experiments. The most characteristic is that of inelastic collisions, in which part of the kinetic energy of the projectile is transferred as internal energy to the target. These are called inelastic collisions of the first kind. Inelastic collisions of the second kind correspond to the reverse process. Suppose that a fast particle q collides with another system A (which may be an atom, molecule, or nucleus) in its ground state of energy E1. As a result of the projectile-system interaction (which may be electromagnetic or nuclear) there is an exchange if energy. Let E2 be the energy if the first excited state of the system. The collision will be elastic (i.e., the kinetic energy will be conserved) unless the projectile has enough kinetic energy to transfer the excitation energy E2 E1 to the target. When this happens the collision is inelastic, and we may express it by
A + q fast ! A * + q slow

When the mass of the projectile q is very small compared with that of the target A, as happens for the case of an electron colliding with an atom, the condition for inelastic collision (see Example 1.7) is
E k " E 2 ! E1

(1:36)

1 2 mv is the kinetic energy of the projectile before the collision. The kinetic energy 2 of the projectile after the collision is then E k ' = E k ! ( E 2 ! E1 ) , since the energy lost by the projectile in the collision is E2 - E1.

where E k =

the collisions are all elastic and the electron moves through the vapor. since the maximum kinetic energy lost in each collision (see Problem 1. The first dip corresponds to electrons that lose all their kinetic energy after one inelastic collision with a mercury atom. the plate current I fluctuates as shown in Fig. The second dip corresponds to those electrons that suffered two inelastic collisions with two mercury atoms. Thereafter the successive collisions of the electron will be elastic. and so on. Between the grid G and the collecting plate P a small retarding potential V’. But if the kinetic energy of the electron was initially very large. the collision may be inelastic and the electron may lose the energy E2 . suppose that an electron of kinetic energy Ek moves through a substance. emits radiation whose wavelength is 2.E1 in a single encounter. according to Hg* ! Hg + hv with hv =E2 . the energy of the electron after the inelastic collision is insufficient to excite other atoms. is applied so that those electrons which are left with very little kinetic energy after one or more inelastic collisions cannot reach the plate and are not registered by the galvanometer. E2 . 1-18. Radiation of this wavelength is observed coming from the mercury vapor during the passage of the electron beam through the vapor.E1. which is then left in an excited state. Thus this simple experiment is one of the most striking proofs of the existence of stationary states. This process was observed for the first time in 1914 by Franck and Hertz. The excited mercury atoms return to their ground state by emission of a photon. when excited. it may still suffer a few more inelastic collisions. the peaks occurring at a spacing of about 4. corresponding to a photon of energy hv equal to 4. losing the energy E2 .E1. Provided that Ek is smaller than the first excitation energy of mercury.E1. The space between F and G is filled with mercury vapor.55) is approximately \$E k # !4(me / M ) E k # 5 " 10 !6 E k However. losing energy very slowly. losing all their kinetic energy.9 volts.To give a concrete example.E1. From spectroscopic evidence we know that mercury vapor.86 eV. 1-17.E1 at each collision and producing more excited atoms before being slowed down below the threshold for inelastic collisions.5 volt. let us say mercury vapor. If the initial kinetic energy of the electron was not much larger than E2 .536 x 10-7 m (or 2536 A). if E is larger than E2 . A heated filament F emits electrons which are accelerated toward the grid C by a variable Potential V. . As V is increased. Their experimental arrangement is indicated schematically in Fig. of approximately 0.

This experiment provides direct proof for the truth of the concepts of quantum theory. 6751. NEW YORK 11356 (718) 461-1822 The Franck-Hertz-experiment (1913. 6756 (This unit provides all voltages required and contains also a DC-amplifier.7 nm wavelength. 6753.) The experiment can be alternatively carried out with the following equipment: . The following apparatus is required for carrying out the experiment: Franck—Hertz-Tube No. in an Oven No. Nobel Prize 1926) with the well-defined periodic and equidistant maxima and minima of the collector electrode current when exciting the mercury resonance line at 253.APPARATUS AND MANUFACTURER’S INFORMATION KLINGER EDUCATIONAL PRODUCTS CDRR 11249 14TH ROAD COLLEGE POINT. is undoubtedly one of the most impressive experiments to demonstrate and verify the quantum theory. on a Front Panel No. 6752 Operating Unit for Franck-Hertz-Experiment No.

A thermometer reading up TO 2000 C (NEVA no. .A 6.7212) with shielded connecting cable (NEVA No.6751) is a three-electrode tube with indirectly heated oxide-coated cathode. to prevent leakage currents via the ionically conducting hot glass wall. the separation between the anode and the collector electrode is small.g. The Franck-Hertz-Tube (No.7256) and read-out meter. The tube contains a drop of highly purified mercury. The getter is effective for a long time. A measuring amplifier. the tube is provided with a highly activated contact getter and exhausted to high vacuum.3 V DC or AC voltage source is required for heating the cathode. During manufacture. (Digital picoammeter or Electrometer) A DC voltage source of about 1.3 V DC or AC voltage source (cathode heating voltage) and 0 to +70 V continuously variable DC voltage source (as accelerating voltage). so that no deterioration of the characteristics through energy-consuming molecular gases takes place when operating the tube.Mains Rectifier Unit 5211. The electrodes are arranged in plane-parallel manner.5 V as opposing voltage (pocket lamp battery or accumulator with voltage divider). 4052) A voltmeter with 3 V DC and 100 V DC measuring ranges. The distance between the cathode and the anode (8 mm) is large compared with the mean free path length in the mercury vapour atmosphere (at 1800 C) in order to ensure a high collision probability. e. Miscellaneous connecting leads. On the other hand. The envelope wall between the anode and the collector electrode carries a vacuum-proof sealedin protective ring made of sintered carborundum. The heater current should be at least 033 A. current sensitivity to 10-11 (NEVA No. grid-form anode and collector electrode. A 6.

= Note: A contact potential of about 2 V exists between the cathode and the anode of the tube. The oven heater may be connected only to an AC supply.7 nm. so that the first current minimum is found for an applied accelerating voltage of about 7 V. The oven is heated with a tubular radiator mounted on the floor of the oven. i. . showing that the excitation energy of the mercury atoms is 4. The power consumption is 400 Watts. v Franck and Hertz verified the presence of this ultraviolet radiation with the aid of a quartz spectrograph.133 ! 10 eVs and the corresponding wavelength is c = 253. "15 h 4.e. The resulting current curve as a function of the accelerating voltage is shown in Fig 4 and Fig. The current minima are spaced at intervals of 4. 5. otherwise arcing would damage the bimetal contact.18 ! 1015 Hz .9 V.9 eV.9V = 1. A bimetal switch which can be adjusted with a control knob from the exterior serves for setting and stabilizing the oven temperature. The spectral frequency corresponding to this energy is v= E 4.The Heating Oven consists of a steel plate cabinet with the dimensions 240 x 160 x 140 mm3.

4). The tube thereby strikes at about 30 V. A current then flows from the collector electrode to the anode and this current is indicated by the measuring amplifier. The collector electrode current as a function of the accelerating voltage shows periodically recurrent and equidistant maxima and minima. 7256) must be used for the connection from the collector electrode to the amplifier input. Correct corresponding polarity must be observed for the meter connected to the output of the measuring amplifier. The form of the curve depends strongly on the oven temperature. At low temperatures (around 1500) the first minima are developed more strongly but the curve rises rapidly (Fig. Thereafter slowly increase the accelerating voltage commencing from 0 Volts.9 V. because the apparatus is already grounded via the measuring amplifier. to 8 V). 4 and 5 show the collector electrode current as a function of the accelerating voltage. . The current sensitivity of the measuring amplifier must be set accordingly.Procedure for carrying out the experiment Connect the heating oven to a grounded AC mains power point with the aid of the provided mains cable. The emission current in the tube and thus the collector electrode current are affected by the cathode temperature.g. The heater current must then be adjusted with a rheostat or rotary potentiometer control (about 10 ) such that the collector electrode current is of the order 10-10 A with 50 V accelerating voltage. 1700 C). A contact potential of about 2 V exists in the tube between the cathode and the anode. The negative pole of the accelerating voltage must be connected to the cathode socket K (bottom right). The polarity of the collector electrode is negative with respect to the anode. The magnitude of this current is of the order of 10-10A. If the current is too small the cathode heater voltage may be increased (e. whereby the minima are spaced at intervals of 4. Make sure that the polarities of the accelerating voltage and opposing voltage are correct.g. Establish the connections to the operating unit (respectively to the voltage sources and to the measuring amplifier) according to Fig 1 and the markings on the front panel. The heater voltage for the cathode may also be taken from an accumulator. If you are using separate voltage sources (accelerating voltage. The indirectly heated cathode requires a warm-up time of about 90 seconds after applying the heater voltage. Set the bimetal contact switch to the desired temperature. With increasing oven temperature progressively more minima are obtained and the curve remains confined in a narrow current range. A shielded cable (No. The temperature can be read on the thermometer inserted to the center of the oven.(no galvanic connection to ground or chassis). But the first minimum is then less pronounced and may even cease to be detectable. Figs. This temperature will be reached after a warm-up time of 10 to 15 minutes (e. so that the first current minimum lies at about 7 V. The temperature set in this manner is automatically held constant (even if the oven is switched off and then re-used after a long idle period). The heater circuit resistor must be placed in series with the connection to the left-hand heater connecting socket (H). cathode heating voltage and opposing voltage) they must be floating to ground.

The tube is thus not endangered even if a discharge by collision ionization takes place in it due to excessively high applied voltage. Description of the Experiment: In the Franck-Hertz experiment. Thus the current reading given by the measuring amplifier become smaller. For normal measurements the voltage drop across this safety resistor may be ignored. so that the oven can also be used for other purposes (e. This is absolutely essential. because the working anode current of the tube is smaller than 5 µA (voltage drop across the safety resistor less than 0. The tube contains a small amount of mercury. The collector electrode is connected to a BNC-type jack to which the shielded lead to the operating unit (measuring amplifier) is connected. Thus it is possible to observe the luminous discharge with a spectroscope and to verify from the spectrum that the gas filling is mercury vapour. A mercury vapour pressure of about 20 millibar is obtained at 1800 C. some of which vaporizes when the tube is heated in the oven. But when the accelerating voltage has been increased to a sufficient extent. The coverplate of the oven carries a hole for inserting the thermometer which is held in position with a clamp spring. the kinetic energy of the electrons is large enough to excite the mercury atoms just in front of the grid-form anode.g. A current of the order of 10-10 A flows from the collector electrode to the anode and is indicated with the measuring amplifier. The symbolic designation of the tube is marked on the front panel in bold lines and the connections are specified with thinner lines.5 V to the collector electrode. The electrons thereby lose their kinetic energy and are no longer able to reach the collector electrode against the braking voltage (-1. When the accelerating voltage is further increased.A 10k resistor in the anode circuit of the tube prevents overloading of the tube. for the sodium fluorescence experiment). so that the electrons fly through the grid. because the vapour pressure of the mercury is always determined by the temperature of the coldest point of the tube.5 V). the collision zone moves progressively closer to the cathode and the electrons which are braked by collision are reaccelerated and can reach the . A 10 k Ω current limiting resistor is permanently incorporated between the connecting socket for the accelerating voltage and the anode of the tube.form anode and then against an opposing voltage of 1. The oxide-coated heated cathode emits electrons. The front panel carries the ceramic-insulated connecting sockets for the tube. The front panel with the tube can be taken off after releasing the six milled screws. the energy transitions which are produced by collisions between electrons and mercury atoms are observed.05 V). The collisions between electrons and mercury atoms at first take place elastically without significant transfer of energy to the mercury atoms. This resistor protects the tube in case a main discharge strikes in it when excessively high voltage is applied. The Franck-Hertz-tube is mounted on the rear side of the front panel in such a manner that the entire tube including the connecting wires is heated to a constant temperature. The oven possesses two windows through which the tube and the heater spirals can be observed. The kinetic energy of these electrons increases with increasing accelerating voltage (Ub).

This design provides for rigid mounting and stable positioning of the electrodes which insures dependable results. the distance between the grid (perforated anode) and the plate (counter electrode) is small whereas the distance between the cathode and grid (perforated anode) is large in comparison to the free path of the electrons. 2. NO. FRANCK-HERTZ TUBE CAT. Secondary . Description of the tube 1. Electrons are emitted thermionically from an indirectly heated cathode. This energy transfer reappears periodically with progressively increasing accelerating voltage. To avoid deformation of the electric field the tube uses a planoparallel system of electrodes. until their kinetic energy has become so large that they can be braked by a second non-elastic collision with a mercury atom.collector electrode again. KA6040/KMO4I INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE Design of this Klinger tube is similar to that originally used by Franck and Hertz to directly measure excitation potentials. In order to insure a high probability of collision. In order to maintain the proper operating temperature. the tube is housed in a thermostatically controlled metal oven.

When the accelerating voltage reaches the excitation potential of the mercury atom. more and more electrons ore able to surpass the retarding potential and reach the plate (counter electrode). the accelerating voltage is reset to zero and the tube is ready for use. Compared to the distance between cathode and grid (perforated anode) the free path of the electrons is small. 3. Leakage current along the hot gloss wall of the tube is minimized by use of a ceramic feed— through on the plate (counter electrode). After the above steps are completed.9V with increasing accelerating voltage give a direct measurement of the excitation potentials for mercury. thus providing a suitable atmosphere for the measurement of excitation potentials of mercury. an electron colliding with an atom of the mercury vapor will give up a quantum of energy to this atom. as many as 13 minima are observed. Some of these electrons are able to reach the plate (counter electrode) and are indicated by an increasing current. . An accelerating voltage is applied between the cathode and grid (perforated anode). These electrons lose velocity to the extent that they cannot surpass the retarding potential and are recorded as a decreasing current. occurs at about 7 volts because of the additional energy of 2. As the accelerating voltage increases. The tube is highly evacuated and contains a measured quantity of metallic mercury. Energy transfers such as these take place several times as the accelerating voltage increases arid are indicated by distinct current maxima and minima. The oven also contains a schematic diagram of the tube which clearly indicates and provides means for making all necessary electrical connections. Operation The tube is heated to its proper operating temperature. Measurement of these minima which occur in steps of 4.1 V required to remove an electron from the cathode. When raised to its proper operating temperature the mercury within the tube is in vapor state.and reflected electrons are eliminated by a metal diaphragm connected to the cathode. The Oven To provide proper operating temperature for the tube a 300 watt thermostatically controlled oven is used. Plate current continues to increase as the accelerating voltage increased until the electrons reach the second excitation level and lose their energy a second time. Then the cathode current is adjusted. The first peak however. Electrons which have collided inelastically are able to regain more energy in the electric field. 4. In the voltage range from 0 to approximately 60V. A retarding potential is applied between the grid (perforated anode) and plate (counter electrode). These electrons are recorded as an increasing current.

sensitivity l0-9-l0-10 A is satisfactory. 2 ohms. for student laboratory work: KE5268 Measuring amplifier with built-in meter to measure current down to l0-10 ampere. For demonstrations in large lecture room: KE5221 KE5204 Measuring amplifier of highest stability Demonstration multirange meter Or. This instrument features 17 ranges from 10 ma to 0. Minimum detectable current is approximately 2 picoamperes.ORDERING DATA KA6040 KA6041 KA604lR KA6044 KE5020 KA6042 KE5003 KE5109 KA6043 Franck-Hertz tube filled with mercury Thermostatically-control led oven Repair of the Franck-Hertz tube Thermometer Rheostat. .1 nanoampere in 1X and 3X steps. 6 amps with cover Voltage divider Universal DC power supply DC meter Set of 13 leads For measuring of small currents an amplifier with a current indicator.

and use the external variable transformer or current control to just the temperature. Turn the built-in thermostat knob to maximum. The built-in thermostat cannot be used as it does not keep the oven at sufficiently constant temperature. NOTE: If any instability occurs at the highest amplification range. measurement of insulation resistance. The polarity of the connections to the filament of the Franck. Turn on the amplifier and power supply. transistors. Coaxial cable for use with the Franck-Hertz experiment is included. Plug in the oven and adjust the controls so that the oven maintains a temperature of about 180°. Insert the thermometer to the 76 mm immersion mark. the accelerating voltage should yield a curve similar to Figure 2. The current is strongly dependent on the temperature. etc. measurement of current in the Planck’s constant phototube. . Note: Fine adjustment of the amplified current is made by varying the retarding potential. The apparatus is now ready for use. The right-hand terminal of the tube must be connected to the -50 volt terminal on the power supply. and any variations in temperature will cause current variations that will mask the maximas and minimas that you want to observe. Set the range control on the amplifier to 1 x l0-9 amperes. Adjust the rheostat to its maximum value. Slowly increase the accelerating voltage.Hertz tube is quite critical and should be carefully checked if maxima are not well defined. it will be found helpful to shield the input plug to the Franck-Hertz tube by wrapping a strip of aluminum foil around the plug and input jack.Typical applications: Measurement of current in the Franck-Hertz tube. of course. A plot of this current vs. PROCEDURE Franck-Hertz Experiment Set up the apparatus as indicated in Figure 3. so that a current of approximately 0. capacitor leakage. vacuum-tube grids. May be used for either rack or bench mounting. determination of currents in diodes. Record this voltage and the corresponding current measured on the amplifier meter. by adjusting the rheostat. Decrease the accelerating voltage to zero. Slowly increase the filament current.75 x l0-9 amperes is indicated an the amplifier meter. the foil should be grounded. Set the retarding potential at 1 volt. Increase the grid voltage to 50 volts.

To clearly define the minimas which occur at lower voltages it may be necessary to increase the amplification. .

3B SCIENTIFIC@ PHYSICS . Allow only trained electronics specialists to open the apparatus. Safe operation of the apparatus is guaranteed with correct handling. . 1 ~~~T_.. In schools and training institutions. It}S intended for operation In dry rooms that are suitable for electrical equipment or installations.If It is to be expected that safe operation is impossible (e. ..safety is not guaranteed . operation of the apparatus is to be responsibly supervised by trained personnel. control and laboratory use of DIN EN 61010 part 1 and is classified as belon.g" in caseof visible damage). Bef ore st art 0f th e experlment . 1 . . Plug apparatus only into grounded power outlets.gin~to protection class I.check if the apparatus is designed for local line voltage. .the apparatus is to be rendered inoperative immediately and to be safeguarded from unintentional use. The apparatus conforms to the safety requirements for electrical equipment for measurement. However. In case f VISI e damage f unct'lona anoma'les 0 " bl or I I d h t' t" d' t I ' ren er t e appara us Inopera Ive Imme la e y.c heck th e apparatus for damage. Before first use.. Instructionsheet 09/06AlF FH signal input Rotary knob for FH signal amplitude 3 Rotary knob for reverse bias 4 Power switch 5 Control grid output 6 Toggleswitch manual/ramp 7 Acceleratingvoltage output 8 Rotary knob for accelerating voltage 9 Heater voltage output 10 Rotary knob for heater 2 1 2 3 voltage 11 Cathodeoutput 12 Chassis ground for neon tube 13 Acceleratingvoltage output/10 14 Ground socket 15 FHsignal output '4 .if " the apparatus IShandled Improperly or carelessly. ' . .

Franck-Hertz tube filled with mercury 2 - ..At the oscilloscopeoutput Us/10. 10 V for reverse bias between grid and collector electrode.. Dimensions: 4-mm safety sockets 160 x 132 x 210 mm ii 1 DCvoltageof 9 V for the controlgrid in the neonfilled Franck-Hertz tube 5. Acceleratingvoltage Us: Options are a regulated DC voltage of 0 . " Ii l 4.to conduct the Franck-Hertz experiment with mercury vapour or with neon gas.. At the lowestamplification1 V of voltagemeasured corresponds to an electron current of 10 J.!A approx. 1.1 Franck-Hertz Additionally 1 Franck-Hertz tube with Hg filling Ii' required: tube filled with mercury 8482150-230 or 8482150-115. rated up to 10 mA.. 80 V . 'j!IJi\J- the collector current....4 kg rill I: ! 4. 80 V". .this voltage is divided by 10.2 . 'j connec or t i i 3.... 12 ~ for the heater filament of the Indirectly heated oxide cathode.. It provides the Franck-Hertzexperiment. U11817 U11854 U11175 U11255 plug U11257 as required plus vaporising furnace 1 Digital thermometer. BNC / 4-mm Safety leads for experiments ' ! . Retarding voltage UG: DC voltage of 1. . all of the operatingvoltagesrequiredto conduct Mainsvoltage: Heat er voItage: Heater current: Accelerating voltage: Retardingvoltage: C t roI voItage: on FH .1 channel 1 Immersion 1 HFlead.. 2 HF leads. . I . 1.1 sensor NiCr-Ni Type K 2 x 35 MHz m 1 Analog oscilloscope. 2.up to 10 V 9 vi BNC : !) .80 V. 50/60 Hz (toggle switch: Ramp).I 1 Fig.400 mA 0. 12 V iil': ii! 180.c/ The Franck-Hertz control unit can. and contains a highly sensitive DC amplifier to measure the current at the collector electrode. Heatervoltage UK: ~C yoltage 4 . (toggle switch: "Man") or a sawtooth voltage 0 . J~r"JCjr~. t signa Inpu : Outputs: Seeback of chassis 4 .. and at the highest amplification to an electron current of 10 nA approx... 2 . 1 Experiment set-up . DC amplifier: The DC amplifier provides a voltage proportional to Weight: 2. be used. Control voltage: . ...

1 m 2 HF leads. www.2 x 35 MHz 1 HFlead.com Subject technical to amendments .com Germany.2 Franck-Hertz tube filled with neon Additionallyrequired: 1 Franck-Hertztube filled with neon in chassiswith connectors 1 Analog oscilloscope.3bscientific. 6 . BNC/ 4-mm plug Safetyleadsfor experiments 8482150-230or 8482150-115as required U11175 U11255 U11257 . 2 Experiment set-up .elwedidactic. 08248 Klingenthal 38 Scientific GmbH. Germany.4.. www. . Rudorffweg 8 . ." . Steinfelsstr.Franck-Hertz tube filled with neon Elwe Didactic GmbH. 21031 Hamburg. I Fig.